Two years later five FEMA trailers intended for Antioch homeless gathering dust in city’s maintenance yard

The five FEMA trailers still in the City of Antioch’s maintenance yard seen from W. 4th Street on Wed, April 13, 2022, where they’ve been since March 2, 2020. Photo by Allen D. Payton

PIO refuses to answer questions; Public Works Director, other department heads including police chief not allowed to speak to media by interim city manager’s orders; no answers to two council members from interim city manager, staff; Public Records Act request submitted, goes unfulfilled

“I have knowledge that other cities could have used these trailers” – Councilwoman Ogorchock

By Allen D. Payton

Two years after five FEMA trailers arrived in Antioch to much fanfare, to serve as temporary housing for the city’s unhoused residents, they sit in the city’s maintenance yard gathering dust. What the plans are for them are a mystery as no one inside City Hall seems to know or is willing to say. (See related article)

Donated by the state and delivered on March 2, 2020, the city council had planned on using the trailers, which can sleep as many as six to eight people, as transitional housing for five families or groups of homeless individuals who have been living together in encampments or on the street. But the council and city staff couldn’t find a suitable location for them that didn’t have opposition from neighbors. (See related article)

Following up on a question from an Antioch resident, the Herald sent an email to Public Works Director John Samuelson on Feb. 28 asking, “What happened or is happening with the FEMA trailers for the unhoused the city received, please? Are they still in the maintenance yard?”

He responded that evening with, “I am forwarding your question to Rolando to respond.” That referred to the city’s Public Information Officer Rolando Bonilla.

The email was then forwarded to Bonilla that same evening with, “This is another question from a resident. So, please respond in order for the public in Antioch to be informed.” But no response was received as of March 4.

The email was then resent on Friday, March 4 to Bonilla, copying City Attorney Thomas Lloyd Smith, Interim City Manager Con Johnson, and department heads including Samuelson, Finance Director Dawn Merchant, Administrative Services Director Nickie Mastay, Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs, as well as all five council members with the additional following information: “I’m resending this email that I sent you on Monday because I haven’t heard back from you all week. What happened or is happening with the FEMA trailers for the unhoused the city received, please? If I don’t hear back from you by Monday, March 7, 2022 at noon, consider this a formal Public Records Act request for the information, including any and all communications between any Antioch city staff member and any others, anyone in state government and/or Antioch council members regarding the FEMA trailers and their dispensation.”

Barbanica, Ogorchock Say They Can’t Get Answers, Either

Only Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock responded to the questions from the Antioch resident sent to them by the Herald. Barbanica said he had asked about the trailers, as well but was not provided an answer.

In an email response on Saturday, March 5 Ogorchock wrote, “Rolando has nothing to do with the trailers. That is an item that is/should be on the [6-] month list. I brought it up quite some time ago and so has Mike. We have them at the Public Works Dept., from my understanding.”

When informed that Samuelson had forwarded the question to Bonilla and directed the Herald to obtain the answer from him and reminding her that Rolando was there the day the trailers were delivered, Ogorchock responded on Sunday, March 6, “I just sent your email to Con to get answers. I have a feeling that since the question is coming from a news outlet, all have been told to direct their questions to Rolando. That’s my guess, let’s see what he says.”

Later that day, Ogorchock emailed an additional response to the Herald writing, “I’m looking at the 6-month list, which is way over, this issue was raised by me on 12-8-2020, and then by Mike on 1-5-2022.”

The city had 10 business days to respond to a PRA request.  As of Tuesday, April 12, the Public Records Act request had not been fulfilled.

One more attempt was made via email on Wednesday, April 13 to obtain the requested documents or answer to the question, “What happened or is happening with the FEMA trailers for the unhoused the city received?”

4/16/22 UPDATE: On Thursday afternoon Assistant City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore responded, “The City is in the process of identifying a suitable arrangement for transfer of the trailers.  We have consulted with the State of California and at its direction, the City coordinated with the Contra Costa County’s Continuum of Care to solicit letters of interest.  Panel interviews were conducted last week with interested organizations and a staff recommendation will be presented to the City Council within 30 calendar days.”

4/16/22 UPDATE: “Nothing to date is happening with the FEMA trailers,” Ogorchock shared in an email on Saturday, April 16. “I had asked for this to be on the 6-month list since December 8, 2020. As you can see way past the 6-month deadline.  I have knowledge that other cities could have used these trailers in communities built for such trailers.”

“It’s been shared with me that there is a possibility that a church, Grace Bible (Fellowship) specifically, would like to have them.  There could be another nonprofit that could be interested. But I’m not sure,” she added.

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5 FEMA trailers in City mtc yard 04-13-22

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